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Home / News & IndustryManaged Care Insight and Analysis
Updated: October 6, 2009
Insurer Personal Health Records (PHRs): Can They Bridge the Information Gap?

While many major health insurers have created personal health records (PHRs) to allow enrollees to electronically store and organize their healthcare information, whether patients and physicians will embrace the new electronic tool remains an open question, according to a study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).

A PHR is a centralized place for people to electronically store and organize their personal health information, separate from electronic or paper medical records maintained by their healthcare providers. Many advocates believe that PHRs have the potential to revolutionize healthcare by engaging patients in their care, improving patient-clinician communication, and, ultimately, improving health outcomes and reducing costs.

While there are many different types of PHRs, including stand-alone and provider-sponsored products, the study focuses on PHRs offered by health insurers. Typically, health insurers automatically fill PHRs with medical and pharmacy claims data and allow patients to enter additional information.

Some insurers offer features to facilitate data sharing with physicians via the PHR or through a separate portal of claims-based records.

Health insurer PHRs are relatively new, and the evolving products vary greatly in design. Many insurers initially offered a basic PHR in response to employers' demands. Nonetheless, nearly all the insurers in the study were enhancing their PHR offerings, primarily as a competitive strategy.

For example, in addition to claims-based information, insurers are adding selected laboratory results and care management applications, such as clinical alerts and reminders and identification of patients for disease management programs.

Insurers' ability to put claims-based data into PHRs was seen as an advantage, but consumer representatives suggested that enrollees' concerns about data security and confidentiality could hamper adoption, while physicians question the use of claims data for treatment purposes and have concerns about incorporating use of PHR information into practice workflows.

"To date, most insurers haven't actively marketed PHRs to enrollees and physicians, and patient take up and physician awareness of insurer-sponsored PHRs appears to be low," said Joy M. Grossman, HSC senior researcher and coauthor of the study with Teresa Zayas-Cabán, senior manager of health information technology at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; and Nicole Kemper, HSC health research analyst.

The study was published in the journal Health Affairs.

Address: Center for Studying Health System Change, 600 Maryland Ave, SW, Suite 550, Washington, DC 20024; (202) 484-5261,

  This article was taken from:
The Executive Report on Managed Care

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